Extension of Powers to Lease Duchy Land

Part of Duchy of Lancaster Bill – in the House of Commons at 11:45 pm on 21st January 1988.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State (Department of Trade and Industry) 11:45 pm, 21st January 1988

The hon. Gentleman spoke to the amendment in his usual pleasant manner and style, hut he used fairly strong language, calling the Bill an absurdity and the argument that we should lift the restrictions on the more rural parts of the estate preposterous. With respect, his argument contains a slight illogicality. The main restriction that the Bill seeks to repeal is the 99-year restriction on anything in the manner of a building lease with which the Duchy is still fettered. He says that there is not the slightest prospect of the Duchy ever wanting to give a lease for more than 99 years in the moors of Goathland. He then says that because of that we should keep a restriction legally to prevent the Duchy from granting a lease for more than 99 years.

The hon. Gentleman demands that we maintain the present restrictions in the law for those parts of the estate where he says they are meaningless and ineffective anyway. It is probably true that most of the 19th century provisions have never had the slightest effect upon the behaviour of the Duchy in the moorlands of south Wales and north Yorkshire, the agricultural estates of Cheshire and Lancashire or the large tracts that the hon. Gentleman described. It would be nonsense for the Bill removing the restrictions to apply only to London and Harrogate. I now realise the logic of that rather curious geographical definition.

The hon. Gentleman sought to identify the urban part of the estate, where he thinks that the repeal of the restrictions might have some relevance. As he conceded, he has not mentioned all the urban areas; he mentioned Bradford, Leicester and Leeds in passing in his own list. In addition, we have property on the outskirts of Crewe, Pontefract and Newcastle-under-Lyme. Furthermore, the Duchy is perfectly free to acquire—